Buzzfeed in the UK: are kittens, owls and boy bands the media's future?

The UK launch of BuzzFeed promises more fun fluff that attracts 40 million hits a month. Oscar Williams-Grut reports

Any hip 20-something who logs on to list-loving social media site BuzzFeed tomorrow – and thousands around the world do daily – they will notice something a little different.

Alongside pieces like "29 Baby Animals George W Bush Should Paint Next" and "Cats Offering Helpful Advice To Lindsay Lohan" will be "The Autocorrect Map Of Britain" and "18 Weird And Wonderful British Foods You Need To Try".

Monday marks the launch of BuzzFeed UK, the first overseas office of the wildly popular American website that has been hailed as either the death knell or the future of the media.

Founded in 2006 by Jonah Peretti, who was also one of the brains behind Huffington Post, BuzzFeed calls itself the "first true social news organisation" and specialises in "shareable content". In practice, this means lists of cute animals, photos of celebrities and lots of nostalgia.

The formula has proved wildly successful, so that the company has been valued at $200m (£130m), and in January BuzzFeed raised $19.3m to expand to London, a move its president, Jon Steinberg, called "the natural next expansion" as, after the US, most traffic comes from Blighty.

"We're not radically reinventing what BuzzFeed does," says Luke Lewis, the UK editor. "We're taking all the stuff that's done phenomenally well in the US and just giving it a British spin."

From his London office, Lewis and the three other members of the UK team have been working on what this means in practice.

"There's going to be a lot to do with nostalgia – one of the first posts we're publishing is looking at Nineties boy bands and where they are now," says Lewis, formerly the editor of NME.com. "We'll also be doing a fair bit on animals which is one of the things BuzzFeed is known for. There are lots of British animals that they've never written about: foxes, badgers, owls."

It may not sound like the forefront of the press but it is content like this that has helped the US site record over 40 million views a month. BuzzFeed, which has around 70 editorial staff in the US, recently branched into long-form and political journalism, but Lewis says the UK office won't be doing anything similar, for now at least.

"The idea is for it to be based on pop culture and British obsessions," he says. "The one article we've already published is bizarre cover lines from British real life mags like Take a Break. We're just finding corners of British culture that are funny and entertaining." It is this cultural focus that Lewis thinks will help BuzzFeed UK avoid the kind of damp squib debut suffered by Peretti's first venture, the Huffington Post.

Lewis says BuzzFeed's audience is "20-somethings obsessed with pop culture and immersed in the social web", a demographic with obvious appeal for advertisers. The US site has pioneered paid-for advertorials that are designed to be shared just like its regular content. But the UK operation will be purely editorial.

"The commercial side of it is further down the line," Lewis says. "The idea is just building up an audience and spreading the word of BuzzFeed in the UK. It's a fairly unpressured environment."

Lewis accepts that fluffy animals and advertorials might not be everyone's idea of the future of the media. "We're not here to tell anyone else how to do anything," says Lewis. "BuzzFeed has its own way of doing things. I wouldn't presume to tell anyone else what to do."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Tax Manager / Accountant

£35 - £50k DOE: Guru Careers: A Tax Manager / Accountant (ACA / CA / CTA) is n...

Ashdown Group: Contracts Executive - City of London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Contracts Executive - Cit...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Debt Collector - Multiple Roles

£21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks